It’s swimsuit season! In our June/July issue, we talked to sewists who dared to make their own swimsuits. Many of them loved the experience and the feeling of accomplishment they got from completing an intimidating project.
Why is sewing swimsuits so scary? Personally, I think there are a number of reasons. There’s the challenge of getting the fit just right, of course — a badly-fitting swimsuit has the potential for worse consequences than many garments — but I think a lot of it is that the techniques are not the same ones we use in our normal sewing. Sewing knits can be challenging enough; where do you even start with something like spandex?
It turns out that, just like with any fabric, there are a few tricks to know, but once you know them, it’s not hard to sew with an unfamiliar fabric. Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Rhonda Buss, who did our Soma Swimsuit Sew Along in 2016.
- Use a needle designed for stretch fabrics, such as a ballpoint, jersey or stretch needle. If you’re sewing metallic fabric and it’s giving you trouble, try a metallic needle.
- Start the project with a new needle to avoid any existing burrs snagging the fabric.
- The selvage on spandex can be wavy, puckered or distorted, so be sure to cut it off before you begin cutting.
- Sew using a serger if available. If not, use a stretch stitch or a narrow zigzag stitch.
- Use wooly nylon thread in the serger loopers or in the bobbin. This adds extra stretch to the stitches.
- Make sure to test stitch on scrap fabric to perfect the machine tension before beginning construction.
- If the fabric gets caught in the throat plate, change to a straight-stitch plate if possible (but not if you’re using a zigzag stitch for construction!)
- Remember to cut the fabric so the direction of greatest stretch is going around the body.
- If prewashing the fabric (and when laundering after construction), don’t dry the fabric in the dryer, as the heat can break down the elastic in the fabric. Air-dry instead.
Now that you know the tricks to sewing spandex, why not try making a swimsuit yourself? Check out shopsewitall.com for patterns and more helpful information.
The Soma Swimsuit from Paper Cut Patterns has several style options, making it very versatile. Bonus! Check out Rhonda Buss’s Soma Swimsuit Sew Along for more tips on making this swimsuit.
The Ariel Swimsuit pattern has a tank and a cute bikini version.
Learn more about sewing swimsuits with the BurdaStyle Swimwear and Sloper Kit. The kit includes three patterns and a sloper that you can customize to your own body. If you’re not sure how to do that, two included videos will teach you how! The kit also includes three cover-up patterns for to-and-from beach wear, so you’ll be all set for your summer swim excursions.
Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at shopsewitall.com!